Could weed be the next COVID-19 drug?
According to a new study by researchers affiliated with Oregon State University, compounds found in cannabis can prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from infecting human cells.
An abstract of the study was published Monday in the Journal of Natural Products.
The researchers found that two compounds, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), could prevent COVID-19 infections by gumming up the spike proteins of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which the virus uses to enter cells.
"Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral intervention, and the connection of the spike protein's receptor binding domain to the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle," lead researcher Richard van Breemen said, according to KVAL-TV in Oregon. "That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can't bind to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs."
The researchers tested the compounds against the "alpha" and "beta" variants of the virus in human cells in a lab, and van Breeman said they "hope that trend will extend to other existing and future variants" of the virus, according to KVAL-TV, adding that "the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should make for a much more challenging environment for SARS-CoV-2."
Though the study did not use human test subjects, the researchers noted that the compounds have "a long history of safe human use." The compounds are found in the raw form of hemp, known scientifically as Cannabis sativa.
"These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts," van Breemen said, according to KVAL-TV. "They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans."
Of course, much more research is needed, so don't think you can just load up your bong for a COVID-19 cure.Stay on top of cannabis news and views. Sign up for our Weed Wire Newsletter.